Kinect for Windows sensorI am pleased to announce that today we have released version 1.5 of the Kinect for Windows runtime and SDK.  Additionally, Kinect for Windows hardware is now available in Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan. Starting next month, Kinect for Windows hardware will be available in 15 additional countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, India, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates. When this wave of expansion is complete, Kinect for Windows will be available in 31 countries around the world.  Go to our Kinect for Windows website to find a reseller in your region.

 We have added more capabilities to help developers build amazing applications, including:

  • Kinect Studio, our new tool which allows developers to record and play back Kinect data, dramatically shortening and simplifying the development lifecycle of a Kinect application. Now a developer writing a Kinect for Windows application can record clips of users in the application’s target environment and then replay those clips at a later time for testing and further development.
  • A set of Human Interface Guidelines (HIG) to guide developers on best practices for the creation of Natural User Interfaces using Kinect.
  • The Face Tracking SDK, which provides a real-time 3D mesh of facial features—tracking the head position, location of eyebrows, shape of the mouth, etc.
  • Significant sample code additions and improvements.  There are many new samples in both C++ and C#, plus a “Basics” series of samples with language coverage in C++, C#, and Visual Basic.
  • SDK documentation improvements, including new resources as well as migration of documentation to MSDN for easier discoverability and real-time updates.

 We have continued to expand and improve our skeletal tracking capabilities in this release:

  • Kinect for Windows SDK v1.5 offers 10-joint head/shoulders/arms skeletal trackingSeated Skeletal Tracking is now available. This tracks a 10-joint head/shoulders/arms skeleton, ignoring the leg and hip joints. It is not restricted to seated positions; it also tracks head/shoulders/arms when a person is standing. This makes it possible to create applications that are optimized for seated scenarios (such as office work with productivity software or interacting with 3D data) or standing scenarios in which the lower body isn’t visible to the sensor (such as interacting with a kiosk or when navigating through MRI data in an operating room).
  • Skeletal Tracking is supported in Near Mode, including both Default and Seated tracking modes. This allows businesses and developers to create applications that track skeletal movement at closer proximity, like when the end user is sitting at a desk or needs to stand close to an interactive display.

We have made performance and data quality enhancements, which improve the experience of all Kinect for Windows applications using the RGB camera or needing RGB and depth data to be mapped together (“green screen” applications are a common example):

  • Performance for the mapping of a depth frame to a color frame has been significantly improved, with an average speed increase of 5x.
  • Depth and color frames will now be kept in sync with each other. The Kinect for Windows runtime continuously monitors the depth and color streams and corrects any drift.
  • RGB Image quality has been improved in the RGB 640x480 @30fps and YUV 640x480 @15fps video modes. The image quality is now sharper and more color-accurate in high and low lighting conditions.

New capabilities to enable avatar animation scenarios, which makes it easier for developers to build applications that control a 3D avatar, such as Kinect Sports.

  • Kinect for Windows skeletal tracking is supported in near mode, including both default and seated tracking modesKinect for Windows runtime provides Joint Orientation information for the skeletons tracked by the Skeletal Tracking pipeline.  
  • The Joint Orientation is provided in two forms:  A Hierarchical Rotation based on a bone relationship defined on the Skeletal Tracking joint structure, and an Absolute Orientation in Kinect camera coordinates.

Finally, as I mentioned in my Sneak Peek Blog post, we released four new languages for speech recognition – French, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese. In addition, we released new language packs which enable speech recognition for the way a language is spoken in different regions: English/Great Britain, English/Ireland, English/Australia, English/New Zealand, English/Canada, French/France, French/Canada, Italian/Italy, Japanese/Japan, Spanish/Spain, and Spanish/Mexico.

As we have worked with customers large and small over the past months, we’ve seen the value in having a fully integrated approach: the Kinect software and hardware are designed together; audio, video, and depth are all fully supported and integrated; our sensor, drivers, and software work together to provide world class echo cancellation; our approach to human tracking, which is designed in conjunction with the Kinect sensor, works across a broad range of people of all shapes, sizes, clothes, and hairstyles, etc. And because we design the hardware and software together, we are able to make changes that open up exciting new areas for innovation, like Near Mode.

Furthermore, because Kinect for Windows is from Microsoft, our support, distribution, and partner network are all at a global scale. For example, the Kinect for Windows hardware and software are tested together and supported as a unit in every country we are in (31 countries by June!), and we will continue to add countries over time. Microsoft’s developer tools are world class, and our SDK is built to fully integrate with Visual Studio. Especially important for our global business customers is Microsoft’s ability to connect them to partners and experts who can help them use Kinect for Windows to re-imagine their brands, their products, and their processes.

It is exciting for us to have built and shipped such a significantly enhanced version of the Kinect for Windows SDK less than 16 weeks after launch. But we are even more excited about our plans for the future – both in country expansion for the sensor, and in enhanced capabilities of our runtime and SDK.  We believe the best is yet to come, and we can’t wait to see what developers will build with this!

Craig Eisler
General Manager, Kinect for Windows